Reception class

Reception class at St Mary’s Junior School, Cambridge

We firmly believe that all children should have the best possible start in school. If a child feels safe and secure while receiving high quality teaching then they will make the most of their abilities and fulfil their potential. The joy of learning and the fun of childhood exploration are shared throughout a welcoming community where every child is encouraged to try everything and do her best. 

Early Years Foundation Stage education

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a statutory framework which sets standards for learning, development, and care of children from birth to five years of age. This is mandatory for all schools, although independent schools may seek exemption. We sought and were granted, exemption from the EYFS in 2012. We sought exemption from the learning, assessment and development requirements so that we were not constrained by rigid conditions that controlled the way we taught children and managed their assessment. We believe that no two schools have the same intake of children and that the statutory framework also limited parental choice.

We now have the freedom to teach the curriculum and monitor the children’s achievements in a way that better suits their needs. However, we have chosen to keep many of the excellent principles, curriculum guidelines and assessment models from the EYFS within our own Reception learning and development framework.

No school can be exempted from the statutory safeguarding and welfare requirements and we ensure that the school complies with these requirements.

The education we provide is guided by the following beliefs:

  • Each child is unique. All children learn in different ways and at different rates. We quickly establish your daughter’s needs through assessments and observations and teach the girls from their individual starting point.
  • Every child has the potential to be a competent learner. We support each pupil individually because we get to know them before they start school, through visits to the classroom and from talking to you, the parents. Our small class size enables us to work on a one to one basis or in small groups.

For further information regarding EYFS please click here or for more information about the EYFS curriculum at our Junior School please read the EYFS Curriculum Policy here.

The curriculum

Learning is highly practical and purposeful. We plan a challenging and enjoyable curriculum for key areas of learning to reflect the needs and interests of the girls. These areas are often related, which makes the learning more relevant and accessible to the children.

The EYFS Curriculum Policy gives further details. There are seven areas of learning of which the prime areas are:

• Communication and language

• Physical development

• Personal, social and emotional development

Specific areas of learning are:

• Literacy

• Mathematics

• Understanding the world

• Expressive arts and design

Within the main areas of learning some discrete lessons are taught by specialist teachers: French, Music, Computer Science and gymnastics.

Parent partnership

Children learn to be strong and independent learners from secure relationships with parents and teachers. We value parents’ contribution and support in their child’s learning and take our lead from parents, because parents know their daughters better than anyone. We have an open door policy where parents are encouraged to come into school and talk about their child’s learning and development.

We strongly encourage parents to keep up to date with their daughter’s progress and development and we hope they will support learning at home. We think it is very important to share our observations with parents on an informal, day to day basis as well as at parents’ evenings.

Homework begins with the sound book. Each week, different letters are put into the book with help given on how to sound the letter and how to form it. Ideas for extension activities are also given. Later in the school year, a homework book is sent home each week with simple literacy and numeracy activities to complete. Any homework will be based on the learning that has taken place that week in the classroom. The class teacher will also discuss any homework with the parents because each girl will have different needs at this early stage.

Advice is always available on how to help the girls at home and the teacher will suggest games, books and simple activities to support their learning.

Reception classroom and staff team

The Reception classroom provides stimulating and exciting indoor and outdoor areas where resources are clearly labelled and accessible to the children. The environment is welcoming and we encourage parents to come into the class and settle their daughters before the start of school.

Routines are established early so that children quickly gain in confidence and can access activities and equipment independently.

Class teacher and key person: Miss Natalie Shale

The key person is responsible for ensuring that each pupil’s learning is tailored to her needs and to guide parents on supporting their daughter’s development at home. Miss Shale is best suited to this role because she is with the girls every day. Reception class staff regularly meet with the EYFS co-ordinator and/or Pre-prep co-ordinator.

Learning support assistant: Mrs Melanie Osmant

Mrs Osmant supports Miss Shale and works with individuals and small groups, both inside and outside the classroom. Learning support assistants often help to manage playtimes and lunchtimes.

We also have a number of specialist teachers who teach the girls part of the curriculum.

French teacher: Dr Marie-Geraldine Lea

Gym teacher: Mrs Cindy O’Connell

Music teacher: Miss Elise Hickey

Computer Science teacher: Mr Andrew Severy

After-school club supervisors: Mrs Pascale Lavois and Ms Alejandra Martinez

How we support children with SEN or disabilities

Please refer to the Equality Policy, SEND Policy, EAL Policy, Assessment Policy, EYFS Curriculum Policy on the school website or ask reception for a copy.

The term Special Educational Need or Disability (SEND) refers to a wide range of conditions including learning difficulties, physical disabilities, social, emotional and mental health difficulties. If a child has a greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others in the Reception class, or has a disability, we will identify their individual needs in order to support their progression and to provide a safe and supportive environment. Where a disabled child requires special educational provision they will also be covered by the SEN provision in school.

As the teacher is continually assessing and monitoring the children she will identify any needs at the earliest opportunity. We always work with parents to discuss the child’s particular needs and/or disability provision. For Reception age children learning support usually involves small groups or 1:1 teaching with a specific target, sometimes out of the classroom. The learning support assistant may also support the child within the class lessons and work planned will be differentiated to meet the child’s needs. Sometimes parents have concerns that their daughter may have a learning difficulty and their views are always taken seriously. A plan of action will be agreed between the teacher and parents. Our Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) is Mr Daniel Taylor who provides guidance and support to the teacher and learning support assistants who will be working with the child and planning their work, and he will also help monitor the child’s progress.

The school day and eating arrangements

The school is open from 8.00am and the girls settle in to their chosen activities. Girls are allowed in their classrooms at this time and are supervised by our learning support assistants. From 8.30am, teachers are readily available in the morning for a quick chat with parents. School begins at 8.45am with registration and our morning prayer.

Morning lessons usually begin with numeracy or literacy activities. Girls may work together as a class to introduce the learning point and key skills before working in small groups directed by the teacher. There may also be self-chosen activities related to the areas of learning.

Morning break is from 10.10am to 10.30am. The girls play outside, either on the grass if the weather allows or on the small, contained playground outside the Reception building. Snack-time is before assembly or after playtime depending on the timetable. Fruit, milk and water are provided although some children like to bring their own snack. The snack comprises fruit or vegetables; either fresh or dried. Water is always available in the classroom. Morning lessons continue until lunchtime.

Lunch is eaten in the dining hall at 11.50am. The younger pupils are served by their teachers, and girls in Year 6 who help them to cut up their food and serve salad and dessert. Children are encouraged to try new foods but are not compelled to finish if they have had enough. We will always let you know if your child is not eating well. We monitor what the girls eat, and remind them about healthy eating and balanced diets. We always have high expectations for good table manners. All food is labelled and wherever possible we cater for pupils with medical or religious dietary needs when possible. Please notify the school of any dietary needs. The weekly menus are displayed on the Pre-prep notice board and also on the parent portal. Lunch is usually a happy and sociable time for the girls and is followed by playtime in the playground.

Afternoon lessons begin at 1.30pm with registration. There are many activities related to the different areas of the curriculum. Girls choose their own activities from a variety of planned and self-initiated play activities, inside or outside the classroom. Creative play sessions allow the girls to explore and try out the skills they are learning and develop the areas that particularly interest them.

We offer a late stay club until 5.00pm for children who need to stay after school finishes at 3.20pm. Girls are collected by a learning support assistant and they are taken to tea in the dining room. After tea, the girls choose from a variety of play activities prepared for them by the supervisors in the late stay room. If the weather is fine children play outside. We also offer twilight club which runs from 5.00pm to 6.00pm for those children who cannot be collected at the end of the late stay club. There is a charge for after-school care.

Girls can be booked in to attend these clubs on a regular basis or can be booked in on the day by phone, email or a note to the teacher in the contact book.


In addition to the policies referenced above, you can access all of our school policies via our website, and copies can be requested from reception. This includes the procedure in the event that a parent/carer fails to collect a child, and the procedure for dealing with the circumstance of a child going missing at, or away from, the Junior School setting.

Important contact numbers

Reception: +44(0)1223 311666

After hours for late stay and twilight: +44(0)1223 222903

Emergency number: +44(0)7921 897593